Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday plans to make the most forceful case to date that Donald Trump's rise is owed not to his media savvy or brilliance as a communicator, but to strategic decisions Republican leadership made during Barack Obama's presidency.
The day after Trump is expected to score major wins in GOP primaries -- further cementing his status as the likely Republican presidential candidate -- Reid is scheduled to make his argument at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, one of the top Democratic think tanks in Washington, D.C.
"Republicans spent eight years torching the institutions Americans once relied on to help them face the challenges of their daily lives. Instead of engaging on policy, Republicans simply told Americans that there was nothing to be done," Reid will say, according to excerpts provided in advance to The Huffington Post. "So what thrived in the wasteland Republican leaders created? Resentment and hatred, which Republican leaders were all-too-eager to embrace and too cowardly to renounce."
Titled "The Rise of Trump and the Progressive Response," Reid's planned speech is both condemnatory -- in its assessment of GOP leadership -- and concerned -- in its view of the current state of the campaign. It is also a crystallization of the general election campaign that Democrats will likely run should Trump be the nominee: one based on the notion that Trumpism is not a bug in modern Republican politics but a symptom of it.
"It was obvious to even the most casual observer that the tea party wave was driven forward by some of the darkest forces in our culture," Reid plans to say. "But instead of renouncing it, Republican leaders tried to co-opt it."
It was obvious to even the most casual observer that the tea party wave was driven forward by some of the darkest forces in our culture. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid
Whereas numerous theories have been offered for Trump's success in the Republican primary -- ranging from a backlash against George W. Bush's presidency to Sen. Al Franken's (D-Minn.) election in 2008 -- Reid's theory of the case is simple: Republican leadership's acquiescence to the party's base, and their obstructionism toward Obama, created the conditions in which Trump thrived.
To make that point, Reid is expected to argue that anti-Obama sentiments drove Republicans to oppose a variety of policies that they ideologically should have (or would have) supported, including infrastructure spending, health care reform, gun safety measures and unemployment insurance. The obstructionism, he will argue, manifested itself in “one big lie.”
"This is the lie: The economic hardships Americans face cannot be addressed by smart, targeted policy solutions if those solutions were proposed by President Obama," Reid is scheduled to say. "It is no wonder millions of Americans feel powerless."
Republicans are more than likely to dismiss Reid's remarks as political opportunism, a conveniently timed attempt to play, "I told you so." That said, there are many Republicans who wish the party had more firmly managed the expectations of its base, cognizant that much of Trump's appeal is based on accusing GOP leaders of ineffectualness.
Henry Barbour, a major GOP operative, told The Huffington Post several weeks ago that he believed government dysfunction was creating a void that Trump was filling. He pointed a finger first and foremost at Obama. But, he added, Republican leaders shouldered blame too.
"They need to lay out expectations that are achievable and not sell pie in the sky," Barbour said. "And I think there are times when if all you have is the Congress but you only have 53 republicans, well guess what, you need to explain that you really can't drive the agenda because you don't have the votes to get things passed."
Editor's Note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist,